As Alexander Hamilton once said, "Because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies ... no constitutional shackles can be wisely imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed." Since Libya poses no national exigency for the United States, President Obama cannot rightfully espouse that point as a legitimator for war.
Another criterion for war is natural rights. The Declaration of Independence tells us that "all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Eleanor Roosevelt defined our commitment to collective security by writing that equal and unalienable rights for the human family encompass rights to life, liberty and security of person, and John F. Kennedy reinforced this commitment by saying, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." Finally, Ronald Reagan said we cannot escape destiny as the last best hope of mankind.
But Mr. Obama cannot claim natural rights as criteria for Libyan action because he considered preventing genocide inconsistent reasoning for maintaining troops in Iraq; pointing out our lack of involvement in the Congo and Darfur. This leaves Sen. John Kerry's international test, which would make the United States subservient to worldwide conscience. Under that criterion, Libya becomes more equal than the Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda.
Uninterrupted European access to natural resources seems the paramount reasoning for war, with humanitarian protection purely random. Such reasoning should have required that congressional debate accompany Mr. Obama's deliberations.
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